Friday, May 14, 2010

Cancer and chemicals

The President's Cancer panel yesterday released their 2008-2009 annual report. It's a long (240 page) report, and what's amazing is that these are mainstream scientists who are now calling for precautionary reduction of our exposure to all sorts of chemicals we are now routinely exposed to.

It has some sobering facts about cancer, such as:

Approximately 41% of Americans will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives, and 21% will die from it.


The incidence of some cancers, including some most common among children, is increasing for unexplained reasons.

This this op-ed pulls out some great highlights from the report. For example, here's a depressing one:

Noting that 300 contaminants have been detected in umbilical cord blood of newborn babies, the study warns that: "to a disturbing extent, babies are born 'pre-polluted.' "

And then there's this quote:

The report blames weak laws, lax enforcement and fragmented authority, as well as the existing regulatory presumption that chemicals are safe unless strong evidence emerges to the contrary.

Congress is now attempting to address this, with the Safe Chemicals Act.

Here is a quote specifically about Bisphenol A:

Studies of BPA have raised alarm bells for decades, and the evidence is still complex and open to debate. That's life: In the real world, regulatory decisions usually must be made with ambiguous and conflicting data. The panel's point is that we should be prudent in such situations, rather than recklessly approving chemicals of uncertain effect.

This is an important point: during the time of uncertainty, when we don't know that a given chemical is dangerous nor do we know that it is safe, we should err on the side of caution, treating the chemical as guilty until proven innocent. I discovered that there is a name for this approach: the precautionary principle, and this is of course the core change to the Safe Chemicals Act.

Here's yet another quote, this time from a brief article about one of the scientists who discovered lead exposure, even in tiny amounts, is very dangerous for kids:

We've been very careless in simply presuming that chemicals are innocent until proven guilty," says Dr. Phillip Landrigan.

No comments:

Post a Comment